CommunityMCB Updates

COVID-19 Muslim Burial Resources

[Last updated Wednesday April 8, 2020]

British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) Q&A on the performance of ghusl for deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19

Download PDF: BIMA Ghusl guidelines Q&A

Updated National Burial Council (NBC) x BIMA pathway to follow when preparing bodies of deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19

Download PDF: Ghusl Pathway March 30

Most recent National Burial Council (NBC) guidelines detailing procedure for handling of bodies of deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19

Download PDF: NBC Body Handling Procedure April 7

Additional Resources/FAQs

The National Burial Council has been working with Public Health England to best plan for facilitating the burial of Muslims who pass away from COVID-19.

To see the latest guidance from the National Burial Council, visit nbc.org.uk. For the latest guidance from the National Association of Funeral Directors (UK), visit their advice page.

Some theological rulings explained below are guidelines and have been developed alongside a range of Islamic scholars. The MCB encourages individuals to consult their local Imam or Scholar in the first instance for specific advice.

1. What is the UK Government position on enforced cremation?

On 23 March, the UK Government has confirmed that the emergency legislation to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic will now recognise the importance of ensuring faith communities are able to bury the deceased instead of cremating in the event of significant deaths due to Coronavirus. The legislation has now made clear that enforced cremation against the wishes of the individual, will not take place when there are burial facilities available.

2. Can we do ghusl if the deceased had Coronavirus?

Yes, ghusl is possible if the deceased had Coronavirus, though no one over the age of 60 should take part in the ghusl process, and all who are involved are advised to wear PPE. It would be helpful to designate one or two mosques and/or washing facilities as central locations for ghusl to be carried out, and volunteers to be organised to carry out ghusl and salaat-ul-janazah. After ghusl has been performed, all areas should be disinfected and disposables treated as medical waste. Try not to store bodies in the mosque, and ensure burial can be done on the same day.

3. In what scenario is it allowed to do tayammum instead of ghusl?

Given the potential for some difference of opinion on some specific details between schools of thought, we strongly advise you refer to your local scholar or Imam in the first instance.

Tayammum (dry purification, i.e. without the use of water) can be performed instead of ghusl if ghusl is not possible. However, we are currently waiting for guidance on the specific requirements of performing ghusl.

It is of the utmost importance to ensure the body can reach the cemetery as quickly as possible, which may require tayammum instead.

4. In what scenario would it be allowed to have neither tayammum nor ghusl on the dead body?

Given the potential for some difference of opinion on some specific details between schools of thought, we strongly advise you refer to your local scholar or Imam in the first instance.

If neither tayammum nor ghusl is possible, you can pass a wet hand over the entire body bag which would suffice.

5. In what scenario would cremation be allowed? What about if there were no graves available, and bodies were piling up and becoming a health hazard?

In all schools of thought in Islam, cremation is not an option. On 23 March, the UK Government has committed to respecting the religious wishes of individuals who pass away of Coronavirus in terms of burial rites.

6. Are there sufficient burial places in the UK?

In one of the worst case scenarios, there may be up to 900,000 deaths in the UK, which is c.1.5% of the population. If this is applied to the 3 million UK Muslims, we would be looking at 50,000 deaths. This would require 20,000 graves (assuming an average of 2.5 bodies per grave). We are doing research to understand the current capacity of graveyards in the UK.

An ideal response is to be proactive and take ownership by working with your Local Authority and burial council services, and focusing on increasing capacity or co-ordinating additional capacity in other areas with less demand. Utilising every burial space available is one of the key measures that will help deal with the number of predicted deaths.

7. What if I can’t afford burial services?

i) UK Government support is available through the Funeral Expenses Payment scheme.

ii) National Zakat Foundation (NZF) can also provide support – contact NZF here.

iii) A national emergency appeal is being set up soon by the Muslim Charities Forum, some of which may be available to local charities, organisations or individuals as a hardship fund. This could potentially be used to cover the cost of burials too.

8. Can those with resources buy land for Muslim burial sites?

In terms of acquiring the required land, it would need to be done very quickly, given the necessity to gain planning permission and fulfilling criteria for green belt spaces. There are many challenges, and it is worth noting that it is not straightforward to run a cemetery, so such a choice should not be taken lightly. There is no harm in future preparation, but all action should ideally be taken in conjunction with the Local Authority.

9. I am anxious about being in self-isolation while having to organise the burial of my loved one/family member. Should I delay the burial?

It is not permissible to delay the burial on account of being in self-isolation, as it is the right of the dead to be buried quickly. It is advisable to reach out to local mosques or groups who are volunteering to help with ghusl and burial processes. Contact Muslim Youth Helpline (any age) for mental health signposting support. (www.myh.org.uk | 0808 808 2008)

NOTE: Work is currently being done to collate details of Muslim funeral directors across the UK, which will be published here shortly.

For further queries in the meantime, please email [email protected]. The above FAQs have been compiled based on a series of COVID19 Community Briefing calls. Listen to the latest briefing here.

Menu